Limit to Growth?

Robin Hanson is at it again, this time arguing with Bryan Caplan that the universe simply cannot physically support economic growth at current levels. I’m not sure if his physical arguments make sense or how much matter VR space requires, but he still has not addressed my earlier point that population growth shouldn’t and won’t keep growing at current levels, especially if economic growth keeps up.

Most of the population growth is from poor nations and, presumably, when those nations get richer they will stop reproducing so much. An unproven, but not a bad, prediction that has been observed many times in the economic development of nations.

I think Hanson should have phrased his point a different way: are there physical limits to improving efficiencies of resource use and technology gains?

I don’t think anyone can say for sure if humans will ever approach the physical limits of existing matter of the universe, but every generation predicts that resource use efficiency will max out… whereupon the technology is improved, allocation becomes more efficient, or new material is invented or discovered that supersedes the need for the resource completely.

Furthermore, our forecasting abilities to predict this new tech is very bad and some of the more important tech would probably be considered Black Swans.

Its interesting to think about what efficiency limits we might face with current technology and try to envision how virtual reality might play out after the singularity. But to predict the end of humanity in 10 thousand years?

I bet futurist cave men where doing the same thing.


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